Charter schools

 Thomas Sowell was a bit loose with his facts in his column about charter schools (Hastings Tribune, March 11). 

First of all, we must understand that charter schools are corporate schools. They may be non-profit but all their supplies, etc. are bought from the for-profits that are owned by the same parent. 

Charter schools start out with a huge advantage over public schools since it takes some effort to enroll a child in a charter school (and charter schools maximize that effort). 

This means that a child in a charter school has a parent who is willing and able to make that effort — parental support is maybe the most powerful factor in a child’s achievement in school.

Charter schools also expel students at a much higher rate than public schools. They maximize the number of better students they keep and dump the rest on the public schools.

But in spite of that huge advantage charter schools are roughly comparable to public schools based upon the 2013 CREDO Stanford University Charter Schools study:

• 25 percent of charter schools do worse than public schools.

• 48 percent of charter schools do about the same.

• 27 percent of charter schools do better than public schools.

Alternatively, our children have about the same chance of getting a worse charter school as a better charter school, even with the shenanigans they play. 

In addition, the gain from charter schools is roughly 0.01 standard deviations in test scores. That means to get Omaha Public Schools up to the level of Millard Public Schools would take about 200 years — 200 years ago James Madison was just beginning his second term as president and the war of 1812 was still raging. 

Our children don’t have that kind of time.

The columnist also tried to leave the impression that far-away politicians run public schools.

That is false. You elect local people to be on the Hastings or Adams County school board who run the schools in their district. Most charter schools would bypass the elected local school board and would minimally answer only to the Nebraska Department of Education in Lincoln. 

So far, the Nebraska Unicameral has been extremely wise in not allowing these corporate schools into Nebraska. 

But understand, education in America is a $1.15 trillion business. The get-rich-quick folks will keep trying and will sponsor people like Sowell as part of their campaign to get some of that money.

Bert Peterson

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